The gimmick of the Nintendo Switch isn’t quite up to speed (yet).
Nintendo systems have become known for their gimmicks; 3D, motion control, dual screens, etc. When the Nintendo Switch was announced last year, the system’s focal feature was its portability. While the Switch serves as a traditional console plugged into your tv, you can remove it from its dock and use it in a portable mode. The physical system operates as both the console and a portable gaming machine. On the surface, it’s a great idea.
Just want to sit on your couch playing video games? Have a blast. Oh, you gotta go somewhere while you’re in the middle of something and you can’t really stop or you wanna watch something on tv while you play? No problem, just pick it right up off the dock and take it with you. You can use the Switch as either a portable station with separate controllers or as a handheld device. You can literally play on your Switch anywhere at any time through any method. But is it really as practical as people are making it out to be?
There’s no doubt that the Switch’s portability is pretty good. The functionality is there and it’s an effective method of playing your games on the go. In fact, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild runs better in the Switch’s portable mode than it does docked at your tv. It obviously works as a feature and is a strong selling point for the console but just because the system is portable doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a better handheld device than the Nintendo 3DS.
This is a topic that has come up a lot this week with Nintendo’s announced of Pokemon Ultra Sun & Moon. Many people, myself included, were anticipating the announcement of the rumored Pokemon Stars to be released on the Switch. When Nintendo announced that the latest entry in the Pokemon series would be exclusive on the Nintendo 3DS, everyone apparently went into an outrage. I’ve seen a lot of arguments that the Nintendo 3DS is outdated and that the Switch is now Nintendo’s new handheld system and I vehemently disagree with those takes. Pokemon coming to console and whether or not Ultra Sun & Moon should be on the Switch is a separate topic but the point here is that there is a strong belief that the Switch is now Nintendo’s handheld console. It’s not.
The Nintendo 3DS, much like all of Nintendo’s past handheld systems is small and compact. I can literally take my 3DS anywhere that I want and all I have to do is throw it in a bag or slide it right into my pocket and I don’t have to worry about it. The Switch is not just a handheld device, it’s an entire home console that is significantly more expensive. I can’t just slip it into my pocket or a backpack and be on my way. I need a case to protect it from damage and I need a bag to carry it in. Just because the Switch is portable doesn’t mean it’s the same as a handheld system.
Now ultimately, do I want Pokemon on the Switch? Yes. I don’t take my 3DS with me very often so I wouldn’t mind seeing Pokemon convert to a full-fledged console game but I do appreciate what it means to be able to bring my 3DS with me. Comparing that to the Switch is objectively wrong. Might the Switch end up being closer to a true, handheld device in future versions of the system? Sure. I expect that the Switch’s portability will evolve over time and be significantly improved as there’s clearly already a strong foundation to work with. But for the time being, it’s portability is overstated and the 3DS is going nowhere.